Culture / Newsy

Houston Food Bank’s 40 Year History of Changing Lives — How Neighbors Helping Neighbors Grew Into a Phenomenon

The Largest Food Bank in America Continually Ups Its Difference Making

BY // 02.22.22

When a crisis hits, from a devasting hurricane to a worldwide pandemic to a personal hardship that results in the unexpected circumstance of food insecurity, the nonprofit Houston Food Bank has been there to act as a lifeline for anyone in need. This March 8th marks the 40th anniversary of its founding by a group of visionaries who understood the importance of helping neighbors in need.

Today the Houston Food Bank is the nation’s largest food bank in terms of food distribution.

“Forty years ago, when the Houston Food Bank was just beginning, the founders shared a vision of gathering food in a central location and distributing that nourishment to all who were hungry,” says Brian Greene, president/CEO of Houston Food Bank.

“In the first year of operation, the food bank distributed an amazing one million pounds of food. Today, we distribute more than 200 times that amount annually.”

It’s estimated that one million people in Southeast Texas are food insecure, meaning they lack consistent access to enough nutritious food to sustain a healthy lifestyle. Hunger comes from prolonged food insecurity resulting in illness, discomfort and weakness. The situation has only been made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic — and skyrocketing inflation.

PaperCity often highlights the restauranteurs and chefs who have made Houston one of the most culturally diverse and exciting cities to dine in America. So many of those chefs step up to help the Houston Food Bank in a myriad of ways. Now Houston diners have an opportunity to do the same. To mark the Houston Food Bank’s 40 years of service, a small group of donors is generously offering a special double match gift for all online donations (up to $125,000) made between March 1 and March 8. If you donate $100, a matching additional $100 will be donated and so on.

In the last year – including the COVID-19 response – the Houston Food Bank provided 207 million nutritious meals in 18 southeast Texas counties through more than 1,800 community partners, including food pantries, soup kitchens, social service providers and schools. With a strong focus on healthy foods and fresh produce, the food bank’s developed programs like Kids Cafe.

Launched more than 20 years ago to help alleviate childhood hunger, Kids Cafe provides children with nutritious meals when other resources are not available, such as after school and during summer breaks.

The program provides free nutritious meals and snacks to children attending after-school enrichment programs weekdays throughout the school year. Studies have shown that these programs encourage academic success, health and wellness, and physical activity. Kids Cafe also sponsors the Summer Food Service Program, which provides breakfast, lunch and afternoon snacks to kids and teens experiencing food insecurity in low-income areas during the summer months.

Kids Cafe serves children and teens through the Houston Food Bank (Photo by Photos The Houston Food Bank)
The Kids Cafe works to serve children and teens throughout the school year and summer, too with a myriad of important food programs. (Courtesy Houston Food Bank)

A growing number of kids experiencing a homeless situation — which can include doubling up with other families, staying in a car, park, empty building or bus terminal — go home to little or no meals on the weekends. The Houston Food Bank’s Backpack Buddy program works to fill the weekend and summertime gaps. The Backpack Buddy initiative aids chronically hungry children by providing a delivery that includes a family food box, two hygiene kits and two bags of school supplies.

Additionally, with the heightened demand during the last two years, food banks across the country have been challenged with attracting drop-in volunteers. To alleviate the issue, the Houston Food Bank has developed new means to distribute much-needed food. One crucial way was through direct household distribution providing no-contact deliveries. Started in partnership with CrowdSource Rescue, Amazon and Nuro (Nurobots transport food with autonomous vehicles), Hop Skip Drive, HUNGRY, Harris County Precinct One, volunteers from the National Guard and through a partnership with CARE, the food bank has utilized TaskRabbit and Lyft delivery services.

volunteers packing boxes at the Houston Food Bank (Photo by Photos The Houston Food Bank)
During the holiday season, volunteers pack boxes of food items and essentials for those in need. (Courtesy Houston Food Bank)

To give of your time by volunteering in any number of ways for the Houston Food Bank, or to make a financial contribution that will be matched from March 1 through March 8, go to Houston Food Bank‘s website.

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